After winnable games slip away, Gophers refocus

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2013 - 6:40 AM

The Gophers men's basketball team is no longer full of inexperienced, starry-eyed players. With the exception of freshman guard and spot reserve Wally Ellenson, they all know the challenges of a long, rugged Big Ten season and the importance of staying vigilant against each capable opponent.

But that doesn't make maintaining that sustained level of intensity easy. At times, most players need reminders. And for the 12th-ranked Gophers, after playing two top-five teams in a week, that message came loud and clear, in the form of their second consecutive loss, their second consecutive collapse and the first public criticism of their effort from coach Tubby Smith.

With another significant road trip looming, however -- starting with Wednesday night's game at Northwestern -- absorbing that reminder will be critical.

"I've seen them refocus," Smith said of the team's practices since losing first at Indiana 88-81, then against Michigan 83-75 at home. "They understand what they did wrong and it's a matter of correcting it. We did some things, just correcting our ball-handling and our passing and stuff like that, so I have seen some improvement."

With Northwestern (11-8, 2-4 Big Ten) first on the docket before Minnesota travels to Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2), however, the Gophers face a potential trap game and will need their full complement of players to exude a new energy.

The Gophers (15-3, 3-2) have lost each of their past four games in Evanston, Ill., and struggled early before pulling away in the second half for a 69-51 victory when Northwestern came to Williams Arena on Jan. 6. While the Wildcats are ninth in the league standings and playing without their best player in the injured Drew Crawford, the unique style of play of coach Bill Carmody's team makes them tough to beat.

Combining a Princeton-like offense that utilizes constant motion and lots of back-door cuts with a 1-3-1 zone defense that has given the Gophers fits have been the key in delivering a 68-54 victory over then-ranked Illinois on Thursday and scaring then-No. 2 Indiana before losing 67-59 on Sunday.

"I tell our guys and I think our guys recognize that we can play with anybody," Carmody said. "I think if we had played a little better, we could have beaten [Indiana]. ... Now we go [against] Minnesota, and I know we can beat them. And I know they can beat us -- but it just seems that there isn't a big gap, I don't think there is, talent-wise, from certain teams to another team. And if there is, if there is a gap, it's not so great that you can't overcome it every night."

Smith knows how slim that margin of error is after the Gophers came up short against then-No. 5 Michigan. Unprompted after the game, he brought up what he called a "disappointing" practice the day before the Michigan game, saying "it raised its ugly head" come gametime.

And after two games that included at least one extended stretch of lackadaisical play, shoddy transition defense and moments of miscommunication, the message seemed to fully saturate the sullen locker room Thursday night. Elite squads such as Indiana and Michigan are certainly capable of beating anyone, the Gophers included. As it was, the Gophers didn't give themselves the opportunity to win.

Smith pointed out that senior forward Rodney Williams (knee and hip) and sophomore guard Joe Coleman (ankle) -- two players who struggled against Michigan, particularly in the first half -- were banged up with lingering injuries from the Indiana game. Sophomore point guard Andre Hollins, though, didn't want to use that as an excuse.

"We've been beating ourselves and that's the bottom line," Hollins said. "The good teams don't beat themselves."

Learning from this early lesson -- perhaps conveniently coming in games the Gophers could afford to lose -- will make all the difference in whether the Gophers make a splash in the league or fall in the manner of previously disappointing Big Ten seasons.

"It was a tough game for us," Hollins said of the loss to the Wolverines. "We're going to have to learn from it, bounce back, go harder in practice and focus on the little things."

  • related content

  • Preview: Gophers at Northwestern

    Tuesday January 22, 2013

    Gophers at a glance: Fresh off back-to-back losses, the Gophers hit the road again for a two-game jaunt to Northwestern and Wisconsin. After first falling at No. 5 Indiana, the...

  • Rodney Williams on late-night tweet: 'It was just a dumb comment I made.'

    Tuesday January 22, 2013

    Coach Tubby Smith hedged on his comments Thursday questioning the team's effort.

  • At Williams Arena on the U of M campus in a game between the Gophers a...

  • (12) GOPHERS AT NORTHWESTERN

    8 tonight • TV: Big Ten Network (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 Top 6th Inning
Baltimore 4
Washington 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 3 Bottom 6th Inning
NY Mets 2
NY Yankees 2 Top 6th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Chicago WSox 1 Top 3rd Inning
Kansas City 0
Cleveland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Houston 0
Detroit 4 Top 2nd Inning
Minnesota 3
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
St. Louis 0
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close